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The Berean Fellowship of Churches

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Fellowship vs Denomination

There are several different terms that are used when churches join together; two primary ones are fellowship and denomination.
These are not purely synonymous; there are some key differences.
Denominations
The strongest amount of oversight and control is exercised in denominational identity. Individual churches are often under the direct control of denominational leadership. In many denominations, pastors are assigned to churches by denominational leaders. Often teaching plans, church calendars, and even sermons, are determined by the denominational hierarchy. Denominations usually have their own schools and seminaries, where the focus of study is far more denominational teachings and practices than biblical theology. The beliefs of denominational churches are likewise determined by denominational leaders, although in sometimes church or regional representatives vote on changes to doctrine. In a very sense the denomination owns each individual church, often even down to church property. Denominations are, in essence, franchises. Just as a Big Mac is the same from San Diego, California, to Bangor, Maine, so denominational churches give a predictable experience.
Fellowships
On the opposite side of denominations I would place fellowships of affiliations or associations. Fellowships have no ownership over local churches. They provide a source of of voluntary accountability. Churches function independently, but for the sake of broader fellowship, encouragement, ministry, and the Gospel, join together over common doctrines and practices. Fellowships, I suppose, are like the co-ops used by farmers. They don’t operate any church, but allow pastors and churches to join together in ways that smaller local churches often find impossible. Fellowships, by definition, believe that the local church is the basic building block of the church at large, just as the family is the basic building block of society.
or authority, provide little or no guidance regarding doctrine and practices, and represent, I think, the worst sort of ecumenical practice (ecumenical means world-wide). Churches really function as independent churches, but can promote themselves as part of the larger group. I suppose that affiliations serve as a sort of church co-op, sometimes providing the advantages that a larger group brings.

The Berean Fellowship of Churches

The Berean Fellowship of Churches began August 21, 1932, thirteen people gathered in North Platte, Nebraska, to pray and study the Word of God together. As the lost were converted the church grew, first as the Church of the Open Bible, and then, in 1935, as The Berean Fundamental Church. The name “Berean” comes from ,
Acts 17:11 ESV
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
New churches were planted, and the name changed again to The Berean Fellowship of Churches.
The purpose statement of the Berean Fellowship of Churches is Planting and strengthening churches to make disciples to reach the world.
The purpose statement of the Berean Fellowship of Churches is Planting and strengthening churches to make disciples to reach the world.
The Berean Fellowship of Churches is not a denomination, but a fellowship. One Hope Fellowship pays no dues to belong, although the Berean Fellowship depends on donations to continue. I would like to see us be able to support the fellowship financially as the Lord brings growth to us. I spent 20 years pastoring truly independent churches, and it can be a difficult thing at times. Being part of the Berean Fellowship lets me know that I can pick up the phone and contact at least five different pastors to talk about issues. While the Berean Fellowship does carry on a couple of Fellowship-wide activities, its primarily purpose is to strengthen churches just like us.
The Great Commission is Jesus’ command to His church to make disciples of every nation. And so, the purpose statement of the Berean Fellowship firmly built on the Great Commission:
The purpose statement of the Berean Fellowship has been

Planting and Strengthening Churches to Make Disciples to Reach the World

The work of making disciples and reaching the world belongs to local churches; the churches of the Berean Fellowship gather to support one another in that work.

PLANTING and Strengthening Churches to Make Disciples to Reach the World

Since 2011 eight Berean churches have been planted in Wyoming, Colorado, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and of course, Nebraska. That doesn’t include several churches like One Hope, that joined the Berean Fellowship after being formed. There is also a Berean Fellowship church in Canada.
Planting churches is not enough; the church needs consistent strengthening. Of course, this primarily takes place through the consistent, faithful preaching of the Word, and the Berean Fellowship is absolutely committed to the authority, inerrancy, infallibility, and power of the Word of God. But the truth is that pastors get tired, and churches lose their focus. When that happens, the Berean Fellowship seeks to help encourage and strengthen leaders and congregations to grow in faith and holiness.
Planting churches is not enough; the church needs consistent strengthening. Of course, this primarily takes place through the consistent, faithful preaching of the Word, and the Berean Fellowship is absolutely committed to the authority, inerrancy, infallibility, and power of the Word of God. But the truth is that pastors get tired, and churches lose their focus. When that happens, the Berean Fellowship seeks to help encourage and strengthen leaders and congregations to grow in faith and holiness.

Planting and STRENGTHENING Churches to Make Disciples to Reach the World

Planting churches is not enough; the church needs consistent strengthening. Of course, this primarily takes place through the consistent, faithful preaching of the Word, and the Berean Fellowship is absolutely committed to the authority, inerrancy, infallibility, and power of the Word of God. But the truth is that pastors get tired, and churches lose their focus. When that happens, the Berean Fellowship seeks to help encourage and strengthen leaders and congregations to grow in faith and holiness.
Planting churches is not enough; the church needs consistent strengthening. Of course, this primarily takes place through the consistent, faithful preaching of the Word, and the Berean Fellowship is absolutely committed to the authority, inerrancy, infallibility, and power of the Word of God. But the truth is that pastors get tired, and churches lose their focus. When that happens, the Berean Fellowship seeks to help encourage and strengthen leaders and congregations to grow in faith and holiness.

Planting and Strengthening Churches to MAKE DISCIPLES to Reach the World

The purpose of planting and strengthening churches is not to make converts, but to make disciples: committed, faithful, lifelong followers of Jesus Christ. One Hope Fellowship, and every true church, aims at constant discipleship and spiritual growth. Not one of us can honestly say that we don’t need to grow any more, or repent any more, or trust the Lord more, or know the Bible better, or pray with greater faith and peace, or love one another more purely.

Planting and Strengthening Churches to Make Disciples to REACH THE WORLD

And, true discipleship doesn’t end with the individual. It spills over into the lives of others, first to other believers who are growing in faith and learning to follow Jesus more closely, and also to the lost, to whom we are sent by the Lord Jesus with the Gospel. Our aim is to proclaim Jesus Christ everywhere and to everyone.
For the most part, the ministry of the Berean Fellowship is planned and carried out through the local church. There was a point when the Fellowship itself took on a leadership role in developing an international ministry.

The Berean Fellowship in India

In the late 1980s a man named Joe Darpa, who was at that time a cook at Maranatha Bible Camp, just east of North Platte, Nebraska, spent several months teaching in India with a professor from Calvary Bible College. While there, Joe met an Indian pastor named Abraham Eliphaz, who had a passion for church planting and building orphanages. From 1989 to 1995 Eliphaz served as a summer counselor at Maranatha Bible Camp. The director of Maranatha Bible Camp, George Cheek, spoke with a pastor in Florida who knew Eliphaz, and with Joe Darpa began to set up support-raising engagements for Eliphaz at Berean Fellowship churches.
A man named Joe Darpa, who was at that time a cook at Maranatha Bible Camp, just east of North Platte, Nebraska, spent several months teaching in India with a professor from Calvary Bible College. While there, Joe met an Indian pastor named Abraham Eliphaz, who had a passion for church planting and building orphanages. From 1989 to 1995 Eliphaz served as a summer counselor at Maranatha Bible Camp. The director of Maranatha Bible Camp, George Cheek, spoke with a pastor in Florida who knew Eliphaz, and with Joe Darpa began to set up support-raising engagements for Eliphaz at Berean Fellowship churches.
In 1993 a formal partnership began with Eliphaz’ ministry in India. The aim was to create a Bible college training program for Indian men, who would receive $50 a month and a bicycle for transportation as church planters. George Cheek and another pastor visited the ministry in India in 1996. Three others also visited in 1998, and were concerned about certain issues. George Cheek and another pastor returned in 1999 to look into those concerns more carefully. They learned that Eliphaz had been, essentially, embezzling from the ministry funds, and shortly after, the ministry partnership was severed.
The concern for the Gospel in India remained, in spite of the disappointment in that first relationship. In 2001 the Berean Fellowship formed a partnership with Campus Crusade to plant churches in remote villages where The Jesus Film had been shown. Indian Christians became candidates for church planting training. Campus Crusade India formed training centers known as Berean International Leadership Academies, and the Berean Fellowship provided funding and doctrinal training.
The initial goal was to train and place 20 planters in 20 villages in 2 years. In 2003 the Berean Fellowship set a goal of training and supporting 300 church planters in 3 years. Funding for the planters would gradually diminish over a six year period of time, when churches were expected to provide their pastor’s livelihood. The cost per man for the entire 6 years – one year of training, and five years of planting support – was $100 per month, or $7,200 for six years. The first year’s class later saw more than 1,400 professions of faith, planted 10 new churches, saw 208 new Christians come into those churches, and also involved 355 new Christians in home study groups.
In 2005 enough churches had been planted that forming a legal religious organization became necessary, and the Berean Fellowship of India was born. In 2013 the financial support of church planters came to an end. The long-term goal for the Berean Fellowship of India was that they would be self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-governing. That goal has been achieved.

445 Church Planters trained 335 Churches planted 200 Churches continue at this point 9,300 professions of faith 10,000+ Christians attending

445 church planters were trained, 335 church were planted, 200 of those trained are still pastoring churches in five Indian states, there have been more than 9,300 professions of faith in Christ, and, as of this summer, there are more than 10,000 Christians attending Berean Fellowship of India churches. The Berean Fellowship of India is completely self-governed now, with regular pastor meetings, and annual family conferences.
The Berean Fellowship of India is completely self-governed now, with regular pastor meetings, and annual family conferences.
The Berean Fellowship has shifted its focus from training – training is actually being conducted by Indian pastors and leaders – to helping support the ministry connection between pastors. The Berean Fellowship board of directors is seeking to raise $24,000 per year to enable Berean pastors in India to attend monthly pastor meetings and the annual convention in their particular state.

One Hope Fellowship, a Member of the Berean Fellowship of Churches

As a member of the Berean Fellowship of Churches, One Hope Fellowship is connected to a network, in a sense, where we can both give and receive encouragement, benefit from the combined efforts of 60 other churches, and be involved in ministry outside our own circle.
Personally, I’ve been tremendously encouraged at times, given sound counsel, and had the opportunity to speak into the lives of other men who are laboring in the sheepfold of Christ.
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